After the race, part of me wanted to just sit around in my room at the B&B. As I biked back on my sore ass, moving my tired quads, a big part of me wanted to just lay in my bed until it was time to go to the airport. But I knew I shouldn’t do that. And when I got back to the B&B (I booked by accommodations with the race site in mind so it was only a 5 minute ride), I literally couldn’t.
It was nearing noon, and the maids were beginning to clean and turnover the rooms. They let me shower, but quickly shooed me and my things out of the room once I was changed. I understood the necessity. But I was also so tired. I explained to the owner that I wanted to go to a beach and just sit and relax and eat a snack. (On my bicycle,) I followed her (on a scooter) to a beach 3 minutes away. It was completely empty. The road to it was flanked by a temple and an abandon military building.
“Perfect!” I told her. “Thank you!” She scootered off up the road, but seeing me struggle to bike up it, turned around and towed me back up the road to the area with the 7-11. I purchased a snack and then made my way back to the beach.
I figured I had about 1.5 hours before I would need to head back to the bike rental shop to return the bike and get my complementary ride to the airport. So I sat on the beach, in the shade of a concrete pylon, eating noodles and a hotdog, and listening to the waves crash in one ear and Sometimes I Sit and Think and Sometimes I Just Sit in the other, singing along to the latter. I marveled at the fact that no one was on this beach. Sunny, breezy Sunday and no one is here?
This is incredibly rare for me in Taiwan. True solitude*. It seems everywhere I am in Taiwan, there are other people. Or their sounds. Traveling from place to place on the bus, or busy city streets, constantly people. In my apartment I hear car hors and engines from the motorists on the boulevard below. Or I hear my neighbors opening and closing their doors. Sometimes when I go for a run up the hill/mountain near my apartment, there are stretches where I see or hear no one, but inevitably, a car will drive by every few minutes.
This is the same sort of existence in suburban America, for the most part. And certainly in college, I was constantly surrounded by people. I guess the difference was my car. When I wanted to get away from it all in college, I would hop on my bike, roll down to Lot 23, hop in my car, and drive around the country roads – NJ routes 206 or 27 – and decompress. I recognize now how amazingly privileged and therapeutic that was. Driving through rolling, forested communities; listening to CDs, or WPRB, or just thinking aloud. Yes there were other people and their lights and sounds. I was not isolated, but I was very close to it with the protective shell of my car and the darkness.
I miss that immensely. I can’t get it here.
But on that beach in Kinmen…
There were no people. No sounds but waves. I wanted to stay there for hours, but I only had 1.5.
I was singing along to “An Illustration of Loneliness” when I noticed the B&B owner walking over. She said she was sorry she didn’t give me the bread she had mentioned she would give me for breakfast this morning when I left the B&B for the race. I said it was all OK. She said she wanted a picture of the trophy I won, so I messaged some to her. She was infringing upon my solitude, but she had just been so incredibly nice and helpful the whole weekend, I didn’t mind. Also I knew she had to leave for the airport soon. She said she’d leave the bread on my luggage back at the B&B.
So she left and I laid down on my backpack in the sand in the shade of this pylon as the tide slowly came in.
I read my book for a while, but I got distracted by other thoughts. I found myself again thinking about how I was alone on this beach. But my thoughts weren’t so positive. I picked at the pylon and pulled away a small, triangular stone. I began to do a similar thing that I did once in the Gobi desert, when I took that stone and buried it.
I think this exercise comes from the advice of my friend Cynthia. I was having a problem with someone but because of the circumstances, I couldn’t talk to them directly about it. So Cynthia recommended I write down what I would say, then burn the paper thereby sending these thoughts into the Universe. I don’t really believe in an omniscient, Universal being, but I want to. More importantly, I think this exercise is like self-therapy, forcing you to take stock of your situation.
So reclining on the Kinmen sand, I put my thoughts into this stone. I spoke aloud – there was no one to hear me and think: look she’s talking to herself, she’s a weirdo, although now you all know that I talk to myself, so… – reasoning through why I didn’t feel positive about being alone on the beach. I ought to feel good about it. As previously mentioned, I seldom get an escape from the claustrophobic feeling of the cities. The negative was also obvious to me, as it’s something my time in Taiwan has shown me: experiences are great, but they’re better if you share them with people you want to be around. It was a wonderful beach, experienced by just me. I found myself wondering: how did I get here, on this beach, alone? How did I get to this point? Why am I often alone? Why do I “prefer” being alone? I’m afraid of personal rejection. I’d rather be alone by choice than be alone by circumstance.
I can think of three instances of personal rejection that have stayed with me for years and which inform my present mindset. The last one happened in 2009. That’s over six years ago. Surely, no one else involved remembers these events as frequently as I do, if at all. These are the types of memories that you etch in the concrete center of your mind and that remain like a Rosetta Stone, translating all present interactions. It’s pathetic. I can’t tell if it happens to some, many, or all other conscious humans. But I’m sure the other anxious people out there have memories like this.
I tell the small, triangular stone ripped from the concrete that enough is enough. It is dumb that experiences from a decade ago influence my current behavior. I resolve to be better. I resolve to be more active on this front. Nothing changes unless I do. If I stay the same, everything else stays the same. If I change, everything else will change.
I stand up, hurl the stone into the surf, and leave the beach.
*Guys, why did you let me make up a new dumb word (solitation) when a real word (solitude) already exists.